To the Editor:
As you return for the first week of classes, I want to welcome you back to Tompkins County. The beginning of a new academic year is always full of excitement not just for students, but for our community as well. So much of the energy and activity in Tompkins County comes from higher education and the presence of students in our community. The start of this semester is a time for you to explore your educational pursuits and determine your contribution to the future. The world has changed; we have new responsibilities to uphold during our daily life and complex societal issues to address.
Things will be different this semester. COVID-19 has been with us for seven months now and we have taken significant steps to keep our community healthy and safe. How each of us adapts to this changing world will have an impact on the wellbeing of one another. If you are a returning student, you were part of the first big change when the Spring semester was cut short back in March. You reacted immediately to help stop the spread, and you understand the sacrifices made to keep this novel disease under control. It’s time to once again be part of the solution and encourage your peers to do so as well. Tompkins County has been fortunate to see low incidence of COVID-19 to date and we need your help to keep it that way.
Already, before classes began, we have seen clusters among students that were facilitated by small groups not wearing masks or keeping a safe distance. If we as a community are to be successful at stopping the spread of COVID-19, behaviors such as not wearing a mask or not social distancing cannot continue.
I know the beginning of each semester offers the opportunity to get acquainted with new friends and reconnect with old ones. I understand that gathering with friends plays a large role in the college experience, and in the development of our ideas, relationships and actions. Yes, you can gather in small groups, but we need you to be mindful of the guidance designed to keep you and the community healthy — wear a mask, keep six feet apart. The University has taken extraordinary steps to provide a safe in-person experience, and it is our intention as a partner of Cornell to ensure that experience is a safe one.
I have recently asked the community to join my colleagues in county government as we refocus our attention on broad public health issues that existed before COVID-19, many of which have been magnified during this challenging time. Housing, food insecurity, mental health, substance use disorders and many other issues need our attention now more than ever. I am calling on you, our next generation of scholars, to be part of this effort. You can change the world right here in Tompkins County, but to do so you must first take the necessary steps to control COVID-19.
Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director
and Commissioner of Mental Health
for Tompkins County